Random Draws

I should probably stop playing Hearthstone, but it is a compelling trainwreck of randomness.

I have completed the dungeon run on five classes. It is frequently unwinnable because you were not offered any cards that work together, or you meet a boss that is overpowered or a hard counter to what you have built, or just random draws of the cards. You can even lose the first fight if Bink the Burglar gets the best possible draw and you get the worst (on some classes). But the dungeon run also offers powerful upgrades, fun combinations, and easy access to cards beyond the reach of new players. When it comes together, you get to do amazing and awful things like using Boots of Haste, doubled battlecries, and Coldlight Oracle to play multiple late game creatures on your first turn. I even had both sides come together: Thaddock the Thief got a perfect draw, completed her quest on turn 2, and cast Crystal Core on turn 3; I still won with an even more overpowered combo.

As a new player, it is hard to play the normal mode with the basic cards you are given, after seeing the dungeon mode. I suppose it could work as an advertisement for people who might drop money on card packs to get those cards they saw.

I played a round of Casual Play over lunch. It advertises, “Find an opponent of equal skill, and play for fun!” I was paired against someone with a golden hero, meaning they had won at least 500 ranked games on just that hero. I know Blizzard’s matchmaking algorithms have a wide margin for “close enough” on player rankings balanced against time to search for a closer match, but it paired “less than a week newbie” with “played at least 1000 games.” Look, maybe it is making a good assessment on “equal skill,” but it is not like my small box of imaginary cards has any chance against the deck they can field.

In this way, Hearthstone lets you feel good about your wins but wave away your losses. If you lost, it must have been an unfair match or a bad luck of the draw. While I might otherwise mock that like FPS players who always die due to lag and hackers, that is entirely valid in Hearthstone! The many stacks of randomness in the game mean you can easily get extreme swings with no difference in player skill or choice. But you can mostly ignore that when you win, because the things you were trying to do came together, and you reap the rewards. You did make some good choices along the way, and no absurd fortune happened to keep you from winning this time. And maybe you can observe some absurd fortune happening to your opponent, but it’s not like you can see their cards. If you had bad luck, it was pretty visible and you are not to blame; if your opponent had bad luck, that information was mostly hidden from you except the results, and it is easy to credit yourself for having won a fair-looking match.

: Zubon

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